Kenya’s Political Economy… in a Yoghurt Carton

If I want to buy strawberry yoghurt (and I usually do) here are my options…

IMG_1634IMG_1635 IMG_1636 IMG_1637 IMG_1638 IMG_1639 IMG_1640Notice anything?

Look again…

Brand: Brookside made by Brookside Dairy Limited

Brand: Tuzo made by Brookside Dairy Limited

Brand: Ilara made by Brookside Dairy Limited

Brand: Delamere made Brookside Dairy Limited

Brand: Lyons Maid made by Razco Limited

Brand: Jolly made by Happy Cow Dairy Limited

Brand: Daima made by Sameer Agriculture and Livestock Limited

Ok, so Brookside Dairy Limited possesses the lions share of the yoghurt market. Big deal, right? Well, actually it is a big deal, because Brookside Dairy Limited is owned by the family of president, Uhuru Kenyatta. (Which is the same Kenyatta family of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta.) From that excellent ODI report on East Africa:

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s family is one of the richest – if not the richest – in the East African region today. In 2011, Forbes ranked him the 26th richest person in Africa, but did not include his name in the subsequent publication citing uncertainty about who is the custodian of the Kenyatta family’s property. The family has vast amounts of land (estimated to be about 500,000 acres) in different parts of the country. The family also owns a bank (Commercial Bank of Africa), International Schools (Peponi and Brookhouse schools), a chain of hotels (Heritage Hotels), tented camps in some of the National Parks and Game Reserves, and insurance companies and agricultural holdings, among other properties. The family’s dairy company, Brookside, has over a 40 percent share of Kenya’s milk market and has opened new operations in the East African region.

This attachment between the ruling elite and business community is at the root of so many problems in Kenya. Political campaigns are financed by the business elite who are subsequently “repaid” through tax credits or “bureaucratic kindness”. Policy makers in Kenya don’t just have political interests at stake but actual financial interests in the game. You can bet Uhuru Kenyatta is not going to make it easy for another dairy company to rise to prominence. For the fellow wonks out there, this is a textbook definition of the “limited access orders” (as per Douglas North) that characterize the political economies of so many developing countries.

HT @Boringdev on “Limited Access Orders



1 thought on “Kenya’s Political Economy… in a Yoghurt Carton

  1. Pingback: Why is Africa’s Middle Missing? | Jeff Bloem

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